Obama names picks for cyber commission

Shutterstock image: the White House.

Former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano will lead a special presidential cybersecurity commission.

The White House announced Feb. 17 that Donilon is being appointed chairman and Palmisano vice chairman of the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, which President Barack Obama established via executive order earlier this month.

Donilon is a veteran civil servant, having served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, including a stint as Obama's national security adviser. He's perhaps best known to the public as a prominent face (standing, second from left) in the iconic Situation Room photo on the night of Osama bin Laden's death.

Palmisano has worked in the technology industry since the 1970s. He once described the moniker "cloud computing" as an unfortunate name and suggested swapping the now-standard buzzword with the phrase "highly virtualized environment."

The Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity could eventually include a dozen presidential appointees, as well as members named by congressional leaders. Its goal is to review and issue policy recommendations to help the government, private sector and general public beef up digital security while preserving privacy.

"Right now we are not as well organized as we need to be to make sure that we’re dealing with all these threats in an effective way. We’ve made some enormous progress since I came into office, chipping away at the problem, trying to upgrade certain systems, trying to patch over certain security vulnerabilities," President Obama said at a Feb. 17 White House meeting announcing the commission leaders. He added that, "this is going to be a big agenda, a long-term agenda that is extremely complicated, extremely technical, and is going to require us to overhaul a bunch of legacy systems that are already in place."

The National Institute of Standards and Technology will provide staff and support to the commission. Its recommendations are expected by Dec. 1, 2016, according to a White House official.

"The president has the highest confidence in these men being able to deliver on the critical task of providing the country a series of detailed recommendations on actions that can be taken over the next decade to enhance cybersecurity," the official said.

The commission will examine a range of public- and private-sector cybersecurity concerns, including Internet of Things security, identity management, cyber workforce development and more.

This story was updated to include remarks from President Obama.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a former FCW staff writer.


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